15 OCTOBER 1859, Page 14



A CORRESPONDENT puts to us some questions which challenge answer ; for no greater service is performed for the working classes than in bringing any doubts which they have to the test of inquiry. We are asked "how machinery is to benefit the large body of the labouring classes, and also what machinery has done, up to the present time, to lessen the hours of labour, or to amelio- rate the condition of the labourer ?" The question merits much clearer and more detailed elucidation than can be given to it in a single paper ; and it is one which concerns the politician not less than the philanthropist or the student of social science. It is a great mistake to suppose that the progress of any com- munity is to be found only in the advance of its political institu- tions, in the records of its literature or in the achievements of art. It is to be found also in "the arts"-in 'what may be called the democracy of art, the practical working portions of human ingenuity ; and as we have already shown, the indications here do not simply establish the progress of detailed invention, the march of improvement in the polishing up of certain goods ; but the facts proclaim that the faculties of the entire community have been brought up to a higher standard. Such general improve- ment as is to be found, at every turn in the homes of England, is the effect of that security of person and property which has been the charter of industry, that self-reliance which results from our constitution, and that freedom -which is a more modern ex- tension of the same personal rights. It has required all these things to give invention the boundless scope and the innumerable forms which it has taken.

Of course we can -only give a few instances of the improvements to which we refer. In our own pages, since the commencement of the year, we have repOrted individual examples of invention which concern the whole body of the people. No one, for example, can see the process of making Dauglish's aerated bread, mentioned at the British Association, without perceiving at once that it marks a change in construction and supply of "the staff of life" for the entire community. We have more than once had occasion to com- pare the production of meat in the United Kingdom with that of other countries ; showing that the consumption has increased in every grade of society, even down to the agricultural labourer viho, six or seven years ago, was fed upon banyan fare. Yet the production has been so greatly extended, together with a more than proportionate improvement in the bulk and quality of each

animal, that the price is kept down within the range of "the Million." While the raw material of the larder has thus been magnified far more than proportionately to the increase of the population, we have improvements for cooking. In our pages we have mentioned Askew's roasting jack, Cundy's lodging-house cooking stove, and Douglas's range for roasting, warming rooms, conservatories, die.—machines with which the family cooking can be done in very various methods, or the cooking for large numbers -with only suck a consumption of fuel as is employed in an or- dinary lire. In other words, these and similar machines will place good cooking within the reach of the Million. We have mentioned ELancock's washing machine, which can do the work of twelve women. We have, two years back, described the sewing machine, which has displaced the starving race of sempstresses to create a comparatively well-paid tribe of sewing-machine wo- men; the very women themselves, probably, being clothed by the machine which they work at a profit. We then stated that the machine was assisting to extend good tailoring a much larger number of the population. At -various times we have reported the new inventions for manufacturing veneers, for wrapping the same veneers round any solid form, or for panelling rooms withal. We have had occasion to describe -more Than one kind of new joint in the fitting of joinery. But what do these inven- tions and improvements signify ? They show thatin the supply of the great staples of food, of cooking, of clothing, of cleanliness, of housefittings, advantages which have hitherto been limited to what are called the " upper " classes of society, or to members of the middle class, are extended to the " humbler " ranks ; that is, to very much larger numbers; the same humbler classes, as they are called, partaking of the profit derived from an enormously extended industry. But this extension of industry is going on so universally that it is quite impossible to indicate the variety of its extensions. We may refer to Doctor Collyer's plan for making paper from common straw; to Zahn's machine for making upholsterer's cord,—the single machine, worked by a novice, effecting five operations ; to the machine for making gold chains, by which two women do the work of ten men, and are now doing it to a great amount for en- potation; to the enormous extension of weaving machinery, to its -modern use in agricultural work, and to the endless variety in the application of machinery to household duties,—so -that if "no la- bourer will thrash with the flail," we all see the time when no domestic servant will deign to sweep with a broom. Indeed, we -almost disable ourselves from estimating the endless variety of new improvements, by thus preoccupying the mind with a dozen or so of specimens. But if we bring all such operations into one view, we find that they resolve themselves into making a larger -use of raw-material, manufacturing the goods for a larger number of consumers, and drawing a larger number of workmen into the- superior processes. Carry on this progress, even as it is now pro- ceeding, and we foresee the time when the labouring man will not only scorn the flail, when the Irish labourer will forget conacre, the domestic servant be innocent of a carpet-broom, the cook re- gard herself as a sort of scientific domestic engineer ; but we per- ceive that the great bulk of the people must have a much larger and more varied interest in the whole body of our commerce and productive industry. At that period the Million will be well clothed, well-fed, and well lodged. Indeed, if we compare the con- sumption of meat, the style of cookery, the use of good materials in clothing,—especially cotton wefts, woollens, broadcloth, and silk,—we shall perceive that we have gone somewhat half way to- wards the ideal state which we have anticipated. It is for these reasons that we have attached more importance than some journal- ists do to the report of individual improvements, which are but so many indices to the general advance. But our correspondent moots stiff questions, when he asks what labourers have got by some of the improvements, particularly when he points to the period consumed in apprenticeships, and when he reminds us that the master workman has to provide him- self with the necessary apparatus for his work,—supposing he can get the work. It is a question which concerns the transition ; and if we tell him that the difficulty to which he alludes exists because the change has not yet been completed, he may retort upon ut as a philosopher did when the nature of a scald was explained to console him for his agonized foot, that the theoretical view does not cure present suffering. This is true. Yet if we understand the nature of the evil, we are likely-to -work our way through it all the faster. It is only by degrees that the true value of ma- chinery, both to he employer and the workman, has been thoroughly appreciated. Not long since machinery was considered only as the means for turning out so many specimens of an article so much the quicker, to be sold at a cheaper rate, and command a wider market. Now the workman knows that that wider market yields him higher wages, although the pay for each item may be nominally lower. He knows thatthe introduction of the macb•in enables the skilled workman to get over the field much faster. The new joint, for example, is equivalent to abolishing so many hours out of the day's labour. The use of machinery expedites the construction of a loo-table almost as if it were done by magic. Even in the common building trades, there are processes which are f mished up by the machine in such manner as to keep the su- perior workman much more steadily and profitably employed. The rough labourer, in fact, is gradually becoming superseded by the silent Iron Man, whom the poet Spenser foreshadowed. But as soon as machinery is used, the employer wants skilled men to use it, men of character whom he can trust not to injure it

through stupidity, or through that recklessness which is but moral stupidity.

Again, the more distinct the ideas become respecting the power of machinery, the extension of markets, .aad the character of production needed by the demand of the day, the nearer we approach to a settlement of the hours of labour question. If masters are at present severe in summoning their hands -to work at unseasonable hours, and in keeping them at a tedious drudgery, even masters are beginning to learn that -a few hours from a willing workman, cleverly handling a well-constructed marline, present a more favourable organization for good trade than the older and more barbarous kind of arrangement. Our correspon- dent, too, may remember that in many trades, nay in most, the regulations of workmen for what they call their own "protec- tion," to prevent intruders and to distribute the labour, are really so many restraints against the introduction of machinery, and against what we should call the rescue of superannuated labour from the drudgery for which it is unfitted. The necessity imposed upon the workman of providing tools is a relic-of the same bar- baric age : evidently it is confounding the provinces of labour and capital. But all these questions are gradually being worked off under the resistless and rapid pressure Of the steam engine—of the " steam-engine," we say, as if we were not aware that, for aught we know, in a short time the ,powers of that engine may be multiplied, and steam itself be superseded by a stronger and more manageable power

We do know thattle labourer has to endure pains and troubles in the transition. It would be romancing to suppose that they can be entirely obviated ; but they can be mitigated; and how to do so is the question. We believe there are three cardinal rules by which labourers in all trades and all grades may mitigate the suffering of the present transitions.

1. Disuse of empirical remedies, founded probably on .dogmatic theories, such as "the rights of labour" or "of man"; the reformer workmen limiting their efforts of enforoement only to such things as they can realize under the present state of opinion, of law, and of reciprocal understandings between men.

2. Cooperation; each man helping his fellows, wheresoever lie can, and howsoever.

Hope, through a right understanding of the processes which arc al- ready at work, and a perception of the progress which "the vessel of the state" is actually making in these wide waters of time.

If each man cannot say to himself, that his share of the profit will come out of -that progress, he is wrong,—unlees he is really blind to the promise of hope ; for it is a mistake, which we can correct for ourselves the moment weperoeive it, to imagine that -we live and labour only for the good of ourselves : if we know that we labour conscientiously, and see that good will -come of it even for others, we are paid. That man has not only been dead to the share of his race in immortality,—he has tasted im- perfectly of life, as it is vouchsafed to every living creature, who does not know that the greatest happiness, the dearest pleasure, the most exquisite pang of delight, does not lie, has never lain, in his own enjoyment, but in the joy of others.